by Mitch Johnson

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not homeless, but these fine people don’t know a damn thing about it. I just like the lifestyle because it’s refreshing to me. I mean, the love of my life, Becky Girlfriendson, gives me everything I could ask for and more. Though, sometimes I need a breather from her. You know how it is, right? And these people aren’t as bad as they smell. In fact, they’re very resourceful, which inspires me.

Yeah, I could donate money to the cause and help end homelessness; alas, I haven’t seen any charity actually combat the issue. So, I take the matter into my own hands; and with my girlfriend’s money, I secretly bail my homeless brethren out of jail when they get a little too wasted. They don’t know where the money comes from, however. But, when have the homeless ever asked for the history of their finances? I can’t confirm it, but the word under the bridge says that I’m the homeless’ guardian angel. That’s good news!… Because Becky is figuring out where her money is going.

I regret to inform the public that we’re taking an extended breather.

I’m new to this homeless thing now. Fortunately, the man everybody looks up to, Mack, wants to take me under his wing. He’s currently interviewing me for a position at his company.

“Company?” I ask with confusion.

“What’re y’all?” Mack facetiously asks, “Stupid?”

“No, Mr. Mack,” I respond quickly and respectfully.

Mack takes a swig of his tallboy, then adjusts himself on his coveted box. He takes a moment to study me. When he makes sense of his analyses, he nods his head and steals another sip.

“Auto detail,” he says.

“What’s that?” I ask.

Mack ignores my question and shouts across the street to another homeless man. “Hey, Mexico! Issue Foxtrot a cart and a squeegee!”

The man nods and finds a nearby cart.

“Y’all’ll start now,” Mack says. “Y’all’ll shift for two hours and report back to me with the money y’all make. Y’all’ll work off commission, so the more money y’all make will be the more money y’all’ll get.”

“Oh, yes sir!” I answer. And run to the nearby corner to take over for the current guy. He shakes my hand with lackluster. He must be exhausted from working. His name is Boris Boxman. He says that I should be careful while washing the windshields. Bobby Beerman is nursing his wounds from getting his foot squashed by a car. He’s working in the collections department down the way (and apparently making more money because of his boot). Good for Bobby.

I begin my shift as happy as can be. This is what I need in my life: direction. If I prove to Becky that I can be responsible, there’s no way she can’t accept me back into her loving arms. Oh, I miss her so.

The Mexican man crosses the street without looking both ways and hands me a squeegee. He instructs me that I have to dunk it in the trash can full of water that reads “God Bless,” and wave it around, so the customers know I’m open for business. He’s such a nice guy.

I’m nervous, but I go out and try my best. My best smile erupts after I saturate the squeegee in the trash can. I don’t know how I’ll do but as time goes on, I know I’ll improve.

My shift goes smoothly, I think. I’m making money. With every dollar I receive, I get happier. And I must be so happy that these single-dollar bills are turning into five-dollar bills, promoting to twenty-dollar bills, and then a few hundred-dollar bills! I’m sure the others are making more money than me because they’ve been doing this longer; yet, I feel I’m contributing greatly to the company.

After my shift, I return to Mack with my earnings. He sets down his tallboy and counts my earnings. His eyes widen.

“Boy, why don’t y’all take the company card and go get me some Wendy’s,” he suggests, handing me a plastic card.

“This is a Lone Star card?” I comment.

“Yes, the company card on behalf of the state government,” Mack mentions. “It has no limit. I want a Triple Baconator with no bacon. Y’all hear, boy?”

“Anything you say, Mr. Mack!” I eagerly reply.

As I’m in the process of skipping to Wendy’s, Mack calls, “And y’all get me another six-pack! I ain’t gettin’ any soberer here, boy!”

I nod happily.

I return with the altered burger and his beverages to wash it down with. Mack smiles and gathers every employee within the vicinity. Once everybody surrounds his sacred box, Mack slowly unwraps the sandwich and violently sniffs it. He goes to take a bite but stops once the bun reaches his wild mustache hair. Then, he violently slams it to the ground (a few of the employees go to eat the splattered corpse).

“No more of eating at the company kitchen,” Mack states on his revered box, “otherwise known as ‘The Wendy’s.’”

Mack opens the first tallboy in his new six pack. He chugs the entire can and proceeds to give an inspiring about how everybody else should work like me. So much so, he recommends that the marketing department take the company card and buy clothes that look like mine from Goodwill. This makes me happy. I like me, and now there’s going to be a bunch of people like me. And the others have no choice but to obey Mack.

When Mack dismisses everybody, they scramble into action. Mack laughs and says, “Pretty soon we’re gonna upgrade to issuing out those shopping scooters instead of carts!”

In the meantime, Mack tells me to get back onto the corner. He wants me nowhere else but working. I’m glad I am needed someplace. Watching the homeless move with such purpose humbles me. They’re not who everybody thinks they are. They are quite industrious and good and totally not smelly. Mack is such a good leader.

Before we all know it, there are people dressed like me at various intersections around City – second-hand khakis, some sort of polo shirt, and presentable sneakers. The company is making more money than it knows what to do with. City is responding accordingly. They brag to the rest of the country how we don’t look like the other city’s homeless populations. Drivers all over are eager to pay for our quality services.

The news loves to cover us at our headquarters underneath the overpass, just east of Downtown.
The lights shine brightly on Mack’s box for an interview. Mack tucks his long, silver hair behind his ears and shouts to me from the corner to join him. Anything for Mack. He’s so thoughtful.

With great excitement, the field report goes live and introduces us after herself. Then, she dives into the question.

“What’s made the homeless become so self-sustaining?” she asks.

Mack takes a good gander at the field reporter’s chest before fabricating his answer.

“Well, us here at God Bless, L.L.C.-” Mack begins before being interrupted.

“Wait,” the field reporter says, “You guys are a registered company?!”

“Well, hell yes, pretty lady!” Mack answers quickly. “Y’all think we’re extending our blessin’s to y’all on those signs? Homeless people don’t believe in God! No, it’s advertising for our company, God Bless, L.L.C. Much like how y’all homeful people do on trucks and billboards and what not.”

“Wow, I never would’ve known,” the field reporter says. “And, sir, what is the secret to your company’s recent success.”

Mack proudly looks to me. “This man right here, Mr. Charlie Foxtrot.”

I smile at the camera and wave my hand.

Mack uncovers his current tallboy from behind his back and chugs it.

“Foxtrot over here is the key to an economic theory I’ve been contemplating for quite some time now called ‘trickle-up economics,’” Mack continues.

“‘Trickle-up economics?’” the field reporter questions. “What is that?”

“Wouldn’t y’all like to know, toots,” Mack comments. “It’s this thing where all the people at the bottom make all the money and give it to the person at the top, which happens to be me.”

The field report is puzzled. “What you’re describing, sir, is a pyramid scheme.”

Mack shakes his head, then finishes the rest of his tallboy. “That’s not possible because I believe in no other shape than the trusty cylinder.”

He raises the empty can with a smile.

The field reporter uncomfortably tries to get the interview into her control before Mack interrupts her again.

“City, a big thanks goes out to y’all for trusting the services provided by our company,” Mack says. “If it weren’t for y’all, well, we would still be livin’ in shopping carts!”

And City responds positively. Our company is doing so well, and our employees are working so hard that citizens drive around just to invest in us. Mack’s idea of trickle-up economics is, in fact, genius. I’m glad I’m the key to it all. Our success couldn’t be reached without his tutelage.

Our profits skyrocket. Mr. Wallstreetman and his associates offer economic advice to Mack on his box. They believe that if God Bless, L.L.C. goes public than we’ll grow even stronger. Mack laughs at them. He gets a few of the boys to persuade Mr. Wallstreetman and his team to invest in us on the spot. Mr. Wallstreetman knows good business when he recognizes it.

Government officials are so proud of our success too. Steve Mayorman and Greg Governmentman constantly stop by to congratulate us on taking the initiative to turn our lives around in City. They take pictures of us and post them to their respective political campaigns. Mr. Lobbyman from the government house pays us money to advertise certain issues on our roadside signs. That’s free, undocumented money for us. Anything we can do to help the good people in the good government. And you know what, I’m proud of that. I just hope Becky can see the good I’m doing for City. I hope Mack and everybody else apart of this feels the same way too.

As business keeps improving, I receive a significant raise in my stipend. Instead of making forty dollars a week, I now make forty-one dollars a week. Nothing but blessings are coming my way. All thanks to Mack.

“What else more could I ask for?” I happily ask aloud.

Then, Becky pulls up to the corner in her Lexus. My world stops. I can’t help but look into her eyes because I miss her so much.

“I didn’t realize how much you were doing for the homeless, Charlie,” she says.

“Yeah, I love these people,” I proudly answer.

A tear falls down Becky’s cheek. “I feel so awful I didn’t see your charity through.”

“It’s okay, Becky,” I reassure. “You didn’t know.”

“I want you to come home,” she says.

“But I can’t just leave,” I say. “Mack just issued me a new shopping scooter that has a license plate with my name on it.”

Becky looks down and nods her head, as if she has lost touch with the man I’ve become. She pauses there for a moment and then lifts her head up again to look at me.

“I’ve got jelly beans in the car, Charlie,” she says.

My eyes open and I rush to the door as the light turns green. Mack gets upset and stands up from his box for the first time as long as I’ve known him.

“Y’all get back to work, Foxtrot!” Mack is shouting at me. “Y’all don’t get in that car!”

I panic with my hand on the door handle. I don’t move and just watch Mack storm towards me.

“Get in the car, Charlie,” Becky softly suggests.

Mack stumbles closer and closer.

“That extra dollar is gonna go if y’all get in that car, Foxtrot!” Mack shouts.

Mack trips and falls when he approaches me. He’s a crawl away from grabbing my ankles. Watching him be so helpless like a puppy makes me sad. This man needs my help. I’ve upset him greatly. He’s shouting expletives at me. I’ve never heard half the words he’s deploying but I obviously deserve them. Mack is a very tempered man.

And right when I’m about to let go of the door handle, to help Mack up from the dirty ground, Becky shouts, “Charlie! Jelly beans!”

Of course, I can’t say no to jelly beans, so I frantically open the door and hop in the car. The light is yellow and about to turn red. Becky is anxious in this area of town, so she steps on the gas. To convince me to stay one last time, Mack leaps for the car. His hand protrudes out into the street and Becky crushes it with her rear passenger tire.

“Oh my gosh!” Becky shouts. “I hurt him.”

I laugh as I look out the rearview mirror while enjoying the jelly beans Becky promised. “Looks like it’s the collections department for Mack!”

Two blocks down a man that looks like a co-worker of mine is holding a sign reading, “Anything Helps.” He should really consider working for Mack instead.